Global Environmental Change

By Kathy Keeney

Background Information

Day One - What is Change?

  • This will be a class-generated definition.
  • Dictionary definition: to make different; alter; modify; transform.

Day Two - Soil

  • Plants require nutrient soil to prosper
  • We depend on plants for food
  • Soil is a complex substance made up of tiny pieces of rock, organic substances, air and water
  • The organisms that live in the soil depend on the minerals, water and air supplied by soil
  • Spaces between the tiny pieces of rock allow PERCOLATION of water through the soil
  • Spaces between the tiny pieces of rock allow PERCOLATION or air through the soil
  • The measure of spaces or openings in the soil is called POROSITY
  • The biggest impact humans have on soil is SOIL COMPACTION
  • SOIL COMPACTION pushes soil particles together - no air/water passes through
  • SOIL COMPACTION prevents seeds from pushing through the soil
  • Plants will not receive air and/or water from compacted soil
  • Living organisms in the soil cannot survive without water/air/nutrients
  • No plants = soil erosion

Day Three - Water

  • Without water, life would be impossible
  • All plants and animals need water
  • We take clean abundant water for granted
  • 30-50 percent of the United States water is wasted
  • Droughts are when water is not available in sufficient quantities
  • Industries use water to produce the things we purchase
  • Most water used in the United States is not used in our homes
  • Conserving water in our homes and recycling products saves water
  • Irrigation uses the most amount of water in the United States

Day Four - Air

  • The "greenhouse effect" results from changes in sunlight as is passes through the atmosphere, is absorbed by the earth and molecules in the atmosphere, and is radiated back toward space.
  • Some scientists fear that the greenhouse effect will make the Earth's temperatures warmer
  • Adding Carbon Dioxide to our atmosphere increases the greenhouse effect
  • Photosynthesis uses the Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere - mostly by trees
  • Increase in global warming, melts ice, which increases water levels
  • Carbon Dioxide is responsible for 55-60 percent of global warming trends
  • Chlorofluorocarbons are thought to be responsible for 25 percent of global warming trends
  • Methane is responsible for 12 percent (a gas given off from cows)
  • Nitrous Oxide is responsible for about 6 percent (fertilizer, livestock waste, fossil fuels)
  • There is a debate about the seriousness of Global Warming

Day Five - Tillage Farm

This is activity brings all of the above information into one drama that asks students to take the information above and make decisions regarding a situation.

Book Resources Used:

  • Environmental science activities kit: ready-to-use lessons, labs, and worksheets for grades 7-12/Michael L. Roa; illustrated by Ginny Allen The Center for Applied Research in Education, West Nyack, NY10994, 1993
  • The Wetland "Role Playing Game", Kashanski, Catherine, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Water Quality Division, 1996.

Internet Resources:

Day One - What is Global Environmental Change?

Wisconsin State Standards - B8.l, B8.2, E8.1, F8.8, H8.3

Key Concepts:

  • Change is a difference/response to a stimuli
  • Change is constant
  • Change can be good and/or bad
  • Change affects everyone and everything
  • Change happens in the air, on the land, and in water (abiotic
    factors) as well as living things
  • Change affects us globally

Activity One Defining Change


  • Students will be able to generate a definition of the word change
  • Students will be able to apply that definition to global environmental change in three abiotic factors: air, soil, and water
  • Students will work in a cooperative group setting, sharing ideas
  • Students will share their work with their classmates
  • Students will share prior knowledge about change
  • Teacher will facilitate discussions and procedures.


  • Make one large "What is Change" Tree on large piece of paper for a poster.


  • Overhead transparency of "What is Change" tree
  • One handout "What is Change" tree, either in a packet or
    individual papers.
  • Pencil
  • Markers
  • Masking tape


  1. Place overhead transparency "What is Change" on screen.Either hand out the group "What is Change" tree worksheet, or have them find it in their packet.
  2. Set the groups to task. Tell them they are to discuss and decide on the group's definition of the word "change".
  3. They should write down their definition and be prepared to share their definition with the class.
  4. While the groups are working, place the large poster of "What is Change" on the wall, or door.
  5. When time is up, you may either have each group report their decision as you write The definition on the large paper, or you may have one from each group do so.
  6. Compare the similarities found in each definition. Leave the large sheet up on the wall.
  7. Adaptation: If students are in full inclusion and/or not able to complete group work, this may be done in an individual setting using journals, or individual change sheets and the teacher can write them on the overhead.
  8. Collect individual sheets, group sheets, or packets.

Activity Two Defining Global Environmental Change


  • Students will discuss and share in groups prior knowledge about
    changes in global environment regarding abiotic factors: air,
    land, water
  • Students will work and share in cooperative groups
  • Students will share with the class their information
  • Teacher will facilitate discussions and reporting


None, unless you want to follow the procedure above and create a large poster three tree chart for global environmental change and the three abiotic factors: air - land - water.

  •  1 - Three Tree Global Environmental Change
    worksheet (per group)
  • 1 - Pencils
  • 1 - Overhead transparency of worksheet* optional
  • 1 - Markers *optional
  • 1 - Masking Tape *optional


  1. Hand out 3 Tree Global Changes Worksheet
  2. Have groups discuss and write down their prior knowledge about what
    changes are happening globally in the air, land, and water.
  3. Have the students share with the class
  4. Have all groups write down any new ideas they hadn't generated in their groups

Adaptation - If you wish, you may create a large poster for this activity like the one you did in Activity One.

Student Worksheets for Day One:

  • Activity One - Change Tree
  • Activity Two - Global Environmental Changes - Abiotic Factors Tree
  • Resources: dictionary, textbook

Day Two - Global Environmental Change and Land Use

Wisconsin State Standards - B8.l, B8.2, C8.2, E8.1, E8.3, E8.6, F8.8, F8.9, F8.10, G8.6, H8.3

Key Concepts:

  • Soil is a complex substance
  • Soil compaction affects water filtration
  • Soil Pollution affects quality of life
  • Green Bay Area has individual soil concerns

Activity One - If you can't get down and dirty, be a soil supporter!


  • Students will generate prior knowledge about soils
  • Students will acquire new knowledge about soil and
    soil conservation
  • Students will experiment on solid compaction and
    resultant water filtration
  • Students will read and discuss soil concerns pertinent to
    the Green Bay area.


  • Copies of Soil KWL sheet- one per group 
  • A computer lab for internet sites or laptop-projector combination for the classroom


  • 1 - kwl tree sheet on soil
  • 1 - Computer internet accessibility
  • 1 - Classroom copies of EPA article
  • 1 - pencils


  1. Hand out kwl 3-tree soil worksheet
  2. Have groups discuss and complete the k and w on the kwl worksheet.
  3. Have groups share their work
  4. Have the group number the back side of the sheet from 1-13
  5. If you have computer lab access, the students can log onto the web site: and go through the program. If you do not have access, then a laptop-projector combo for whole class work is an option. (see attached)
  6. Hand out worm certificate *optional
  7. If you are in computer lab, log onto to view information. If not, a copy of the information is included in the back of this packet for a classroom set. Read and discuss the article.
  8. Go back to the kwl soil tree and fill in the L-learn.

Activity 2 - Soil Compaction Lab


  • Students will understand that soil is a complex substance
  • Students will increase their understanding of the effects of compaction on soil
  • Students will increase their willingness to try to protect
    and improve soils


  • Teacher will need "tin snips" for cutting off ends of cans
  • A file or emery cloth for dulling sharp edges
  • A transparency of a soil profile


  • bedrock
  • compaction
  • decompose
  • leach
  • percolation
  • topsoil
  • subsoil
  • soil horizon
  • soil profile


  • One tin can prepared as in "teacher preparation"
  • One piece of board slightly larger than the end of the can
  • A supply of water (amount determined by can size)
  • Stopwatch or watch with a second hand
  • One ruler
  • Masking tape or permanent marking pen

Teacher Preparation: 

Prepare the tin cans (percolation cans) as follows: 

Remove both ends from each tin can. The bead or lip should be cut off one end and the sharp edge somewhat dulled with a fine file, emery cloth or sandpaper. For safety, the bead should be left on the other end, and the teacher should do the filing of the can. Before doing this activity with the students, you might experiment with various sizes of cans to find out which size is the most suitable for your soil type, or you might want to allow the students to do this experimentation.

Have the students place a mark on the outside of each can about 2 inches from the sharpened. This can be done with masking tape or with a permanent marking pen. The actual distance of the end will depend on your soil types. (This mark is to ensure that the can is pushed in to the soil at the same depth each time.)

Prepare a couple extra cans and boards to allow for damage


  1. Discuss what soil is, the importance of the organic portion of soils, and how important it is for air and water to be able to enter the soil.
  2. Demonstrate how to use the "percolation can"
    1. This can be done outside, or bring a bucket of soil inside.
    2. Show the students that the can has a sharp end and discuss safety.
    3. Show the students the mark on the side of the can. This mark indicates how far the can will be pushed into the soil.
    4. Demonstrate pushing the can into the soil, using the wooden block on top of the can to protect your hands and allow you to apply equal pressure all around the end of the can.
    5. Demonstrate pouring the agreed-upon amount of water into the can. Instruct the students that they will time how long it takes the water to completely soak into the ground so that there are no puddles of water at the surface of the ground. (note: you may want to test this ahead of time.)
    6. You can create a data sheet, or have the students create one using the headings: test #, location, description of site/soil, and time for water to percolate into the soil, amount of water poured into the can, depth of can pushed into the soil.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Of the sites tested, which had the most rapid percolation? Why?
  2. Of the sites tested, which had the slowest percolation? Why?
  3. Which site seemed to have the most healthy plant growth? Why?
  4. List 3-5 ways that the soil can become compacted.
  5. In what ways might soil compaction increase soil erosion?
  6. What should be done to reduce soil compaction?
    1. On the school grounds?
    2. In the wilderness area?

Date Sheet Facsimile

Depth of soil penetration (distance from end of can to mark) _________________

Amount of water poured into can __________

Test # Location Description of soil/site Time for water to percolate into the soil

Day Three - Global Environmental Change and Water Use

Wisconsin State Standards: A8.5, A8.6, B8.1, B8.6, F8.7, F8.8, F8.9, H8.3

Key Concepts:

  • The water cycle has approximately 5 different parts.
  • There are chemical and physical processes in the water cycle
  • Every part of the water cycle interrelates
  • The water cycle is a system
  • Land usage affects the water cycle


  • precipitation
  • infiltration
  • evaporation/transpiration
  • run-off
  • ground water

Activity One - Defining Water Terminology


  • Student will generate the definitions of the vocabulary above
  • Students will apply those meanings to the creation of a water web
  • Students will demonstrate the interrelationships of the different behaviors of water


  • Word cards for Atmosphere, Ocean, Lake, Biosphere, Stream, Groundwater and Earth's Surface need to be made.
  • Four colors of yarn need to be available.


  •  Pencil
  • masking tape
  • labels to make arrows
  • yarn (4 colors)
  • signs (tags) labeled: atmosphere, lake, stream, ocean, biosphere, groundwater, earth's surface


  1. Have the students look up the meanings of the vocabulary words. This can be done as homework for the previous evening, or in class the same day.
  2. Discuss the meanings to ensure student understanding
  3. Demonstrate the color coding for the water processes:
    1. Blue = precipitation
    2. Orange = infiltration
    3. Pink = evaporation
    4. White = run-off
  4. In groups of 4 - have the students tape yarn to the name Tags to demonstrate the affect each water process has on each body of water
  5. Use tape and scissors to make arrows on the yarn demonstrating which way the affect is taking place
  6. Reconvene groups and discuss their findings.
  7. In their science notebooks/journals have students list 3-5 scientific observations of their task.
  8. Have students generate 1-2 questions that would take this lesson further.
  9. Turn in lab books.
  10. Assign homework - "How much of your state is wet?" Internet site:
    1. predict which state has the most water
    2. predict which state has the least water
    3. predict how much water Wisconsin has
    4. And then write down the real facts found in website


If students are not able to move around the room safely, you can place the names on a worksheet and have them use color pencils to demonstrate the processes. Sample worksheet below.

World Wide Water Web

Name ___________________ Date _______________ 
Class _____________






Earth's Surface

  • Using color pencils, draw arrows that demonstrate how water processes impact the water on the Earth.
  • Blue - precipitation, Orange - infiltration, Pink - Evaporation/transpiration, Green - run-off

Day Four - Global Environmental Change and Air

Wisconsin State Standards: A8.1, B8.1, B8.6, C8.3, C8.7, C8.11, E8.1, E8.5, F8.10, H8.2,H8.3

Key Concepts:

  • The air is not getting cleaner
  • There are laws to keep our air clean
  • Cfc's are "greenhouse gasses"
  • Greenhouse gasses effects air temperatures

Activity One - Creating the "Greenhouse in a Bottle"


  • Students will increase their understanding of the conversion of light energy to heat energy 
  • Students will increase their understanding of the "greenhouse effect"
  • Students will increase their willingness to help reduce air pollution
  • Students will increase their understanding of the scientific method


  • Chlorofluorocarbons (cfc's)
  • Greenhouse Effect


  •  2 - clear plastic 2-liters bottles
  • 1 - plastic wrap or plastic bag to cover the greenhouses
  • 1 - string, tape, or rubber bands to hold the plastic in place
  • 2 - thermometers (preferably 6: long metal, plastic, or cardboard backed
  • 2 - pieces of thin cardboard, about 2"x 2"
  • 1 - plastic ruler
  • 2 - rocks, approximately 2: in diameter, clean, dry and of the same type
  • 1 - utility knife or single-edged razor blade (to cut top off bottle)
  • 1 - masking tape
  • a light source such as a 100-watt bulb in clip-on socket attached to a stand
  • extension cords as needed
  • Classroom set of President Bush's Clear Skies and Global Climate Change Initiatives located at

Teacher Preparation:

  1. Obtain required materials
  2. Decide whether to have the students cut their own Bottles. Half of the bottles should be cut near where they narrow for the neck. The other half should be cut about 4" from the bottom.
  3. Prepare a sample setup for the students to use as a guide.


  1. Using masking tape, attach the thermometers to the insides of the bottles.
  2. Tape the small cardboard pieces over the thermometer's bulb so that is it not exposed directly to the rays of the light. The bottom of the thermometer should be about 2" above the bottom of the bottle. If there are portions of the bottle's label remaining, the thermometer should be attached next to the remaining label so that the label does not interfere with incoming light.
  3. A dry, clean rock should be placed in the bottom of each bottle to keep it from tipping or being blown over.
  4. The taller bottle should be covered with clear plastic held in place with string or a rubber band. This is the "greenhouse." The sort bottle should remain uncovered. This is a control.
  5. On a data table, have the students record the starting air temperature in each bottle.
  6. Have the students set their bottles in open sunlight, with eh thermometers facing away from the light.
  7. The students should record the temperature inside of bottles every two minutes for 20-30 minutes.
  8. The temperatures should then be graphed.
  9. Discuss the results of this experiment.


  1. How is this model like and unlike the real atmosphere and global warming?
  2. What was the purpose of the short bottle without the plastic cover?
  3. What can be done to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses?

Possible Extensions: 

Have students choose different variable that may or may not effect temperature changes, for example: ice cubes, moist soil, plants, closed top, color of bottle, etc.

Activity Two - President Bush Addresses Global Environmental Change And Clear Skies


As a class, read and discuss President Bush's initiatives to clean up the air.

Day Five - Global Environmental Change and You

Wisconsin State Standards: B8.4, B8.6, F8.8, F8.9, F8.10, G8.3, G8.4, G8.5, H8.3,

Key Concepts:

  • One person's environmental decision affects others
  • Conflicting interests impact environmental decisions
  • Everyone needs to be involved in making decisions regarding our global environment
  • Compromise may be a helpful solution to decisions regarding our global environment

Activity - Tillage Farm Dilemma


  • Students will increase their understanding of the decision making process
  • Students will increase their understanding of how changing air/water/and land will impact everyone
  • Students will perform certain roles to facilitate understanding of concepts regarding responsible stewardship of our resources
  • Students will work cooperatively to make responsible decisions


Teacher might want to make copies of the pictures of the Tillage Farm before and after the land development. An enlarged picture of each for discussion purposes would be helpful. Scripts should be copied and made ready.


  • Copies of the assigned scripts
  • Copies of the Tillage Farm before and after pictures


  1. Read the situation to the class regarding the Tillage Farm's land redistribution
  2. Either assign, draw lots, or volunteers for the individual assigned roles
  3. Have all other students create their own townsfolk persona
  4. Distribute the pictures of Tillage Farm before and after illustrations
  5. Distribute roles to assigned students and give them time to prepare how they are going to present their information
  6. When it is time for the meeting, the planning commission chair (either the teacher or an appointed student) should introduce the chair of the Waterton Zoning Board of Adjustment and start the meeting by having the developer present his proposal.
  7. Each person should take a turn presenting his/her views. The planning commission chair should decide how much exchange is allowed during the discussion. Alternative to the developer's proposal should be sketched and discussed.
  8. The meeting should end with the chair of the Waterton Zoning Board of Adjustment reaching a decision that tries to protect the wetland ecosystems and address the needs and concerns of the community.

The Situation

Waterton is a small rural community of 950 residents. Its village center has a general store, hardware store and a small service station. Most people in Waterton know each other or at least know of each other. No major change or development has occurred in town up until this time - growth has been slow and incremental. Recently, however, the old Tillage Farm was sold to a development company I order to pay inheritance taxes when Sarah Tillage Died. The developer has plans to subdivide the land and build 14 new houses. The farm includes Perch Pond, a shallow pond with a large marsh and shrub swamp on its northern end. as well as a wet meadow wetland located on Creeping Creek, downstream of the pond.

The proposed development calls for filling the wetland along perch Pond to make lawn and to dredge the pond to make it deeper for swimming. In order to reach four of the homes, a road would be built across the downstream wetland, filling in about a half acre, As currently proposed, the developer would need a variance to have this many houses built on this land. The zoning allows for 5-acre lots and the farm is only 55 acres total. The townspeople are divided over the development and will discuss the site plan at tonight's planning commission meeting. This meeting is held jointly with the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which has to approve or disapprove the variance request. People have been talking and preparing for this meeting for weeks.

Character Descriptions:

Amy Tillage - You are the oldest child of Sarah and Paul Tillage and had to sell the family farm when your mother died recently. Your father died a while ago. You hated to sell it but you don't live in Waterton anymore. You and your siblings couldn't afford the inheritance tax without selling the farm.

Unfortunately, you didn't talk to the Appletrys and the Foleys before you sold the land to Alterland Development Company. Both of these neighbors were interested in buying portions of the farm. You have heard that they are upset with you.

You are going to the planning commission meeting to see if there is any information you can offer that would help protect some of the characteristics of the farm that you love - the pond where you caught small fish and frogs, the wetland adjacent to the pond where you watched ducks raise their ducklings, the wetland along Creeping Creek where you picked Irises and the woodlot where you had trails and hiding places.

John Appletrys - You and your wife, Molly own the house and orchard across the road from the Tillage Farm. You are outraged at the developer's plans for the farm. You don't blame Amy Tillage for selling the place, but you are somewhat hurt that she didn't think to find out if you were interested in some of the land. You had asked Sarah once about leasing her corn field an putting some more apple trees in there. Your kids played in and explored the wetland and pond beyond the cornfield - catching insects and having cattail sword battles when they were little - hunting ducks when they were older.

You are attending the planning commission meeting to comment on the site plan for the project. You are opposed to agricultural land changing to high-density suburban residences.

Bill Dozer - You are a representative from Alterland Development Company and the project manager for the Tillage Farm site. You are from a city far away and feel this may work against you in such a small, close knit community. You have invited Peggy Perc to the meeting as she is from the neighboring town and is an Alterland Development Company investor. Your plan calls for 14 houses but to be build on the Tillage Farm. You have proposed more than you need to build in order to give yourself a better negotiating position. Since Waterton is a small community with no industry, you feel your housing plan can help the area by adding to the tax base.

You are aware that filling the wetlands will probably be an issue, but you have a backup strategy: you could build another pond down by the road to replace the wetland you fill. A pond by the road would be good for fire protection and is certainly more useful in your mind that the area through which the road will pass. That area doesn't even have water in it in August.

Peggy Perc - You live in a neighboring town and are an investor in Alterland Development Company. Bill Dozer has asked you to attend the Waterton planning commission meeting with him. Bill wants your sense of what the planning commission members and the zoning board of adjustment members are thinking after he makes his proposal. He thinks that since you are from the area, you will have a better feel for how people are reacting. Actually you already know what some people are feeling because when you stopped in the Waterton General Store for you Sunday paper, you heard discussions. You know the Appletrys are mad and the Foleys upset. You also know that Phoebe Byrd will be ready to speak about the wetland issues that will come up at the meeting. You think that Bill ought to be ready with different development proposals that will use less land. You think that the project will still make money for the company even if he builds fewer; more expensive houses.

Mary Foley
- You and your husband, Peter, own the horse farm across the road from the Tillage Farm. You are very upset about the proposed plans for the Tillage farm. Like the Appletrys, you and Peter would also have tried to buy some of the farm. You are interested in owning the wooded area north and east of Perch Pond. It would give you more land on which to ride your horses. You are hoping that there is still a chance for you and the Appletrys to buy some of the land especially if the development company is not allowed to build all the houses it has proposed.

Susan Breadloaf - You own and run the general store in town. You have heard many discussions around the coffee pot at your store about the plans for the Tillage Farm. You know that the Appletrys and Foleys are really upset about the proposed development and are going to fight the project. You aren't sure what to think about it. You don't like to lose farmland or see places like Perch Pond become off-limits to the local kids. Your son used to go to the pond with the Appletry kids when he was younger. But your son will finish high school soon and you haven't saved much money for college, so you would love to have the added business more people would bring.

Dick Rhodes - You are the road commissioner for Waterton and have lived in the town all your life. You haven't been too involved in the discussions about the proposed development on the old Tillage Farm, but you have heard about the Appletrys and the Foleys being upset. Your friend, Willy Variance, is the chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment so you have seen a draft of the site plan. You think it would cost a lot of money to fill in the wetland in order to put a road through it. The cows cross the stream at the wooden bridge below the wetland, and you think that is where a road should be built.

Phoebe Byrd - You are a member of the area Audubon chapter and a local expert on plants and animals. You were horrified to learn about the development planned for the old Tillage Farm, especially the amount of wetland to be filled. You haven't been to Perch Pond and the adjacent marsh for awhile, but you do know that a marsh wren, a rare bird, has nested in this wetland at least once You will talk at the planning commission meet6ing to explain how important wetlands are and to ask that the commission not allow the project as it is planned.

Hank Boardman - you do logging as well as operate a portable sawmill. You are familiar with the old Tillage Farm because you cut some trees for firewood for Sarah Tillage. You think that the developer ought to be able do as he chooses with the land, although you don't like the idea of so many new people coming into town. Since you might get work clearing land or working on the custom houses, though it might be good for you.

Willy Variance
-You are the chair of the Waterton Zoning Board of Adjustment and your group must decide if Alterland Development Company will be allowed to build 14 houses on the old Tillage Farm. You have heard that many people are coming to the meeting hear the plans and to make comments about them. You are ready to listen to everyone's comments and try to make a decision that will be the best for your town.